Quartz Lake has to be one of my favorite hikes so far. It’s stunning. Absolutely beautiful.
But it’s also a beast. It’s an out and back trail with almost 3,000 feet of vertical gain over the course of 10.2 miles.
The drive to the trailhead is straight forward. Just south of town you’ll head east on Mill Creek Rd. You’ll stay right at the split and then head straight onto Forest Road 665 for about 9 miles. You don’t need high clearance to reach the trail head. But it’s wise to have 4WD as the road can get muddy due to monsoons.
You start out at the Little Blanco Trailhead at 9,960 feet. You quickly cross through some beautiful meadows and aspen groves as you climb to the Ridgeline at 11,200 feet. A gain of 1,240 feet in 1.7 miles. At about two miles in, you’ll see beautiful views of the Rio Blanco and Sand Creek watersheds. You also get your first glimpse of the Keyhole, a gap in the Quartz Ridge that you’ll pass through. It’s another mile and 700 feet of climbing to the keyhole. But once you reach it, you’ll realize it’s well worth the effort. Truly unique with some of the biggest views you’ll see in this area.
From here, you’ll follow the Ridgeline north east. Quartz lake is about 1.6 miles away and you’re above tree line from here on out. So you’ll definitely want to start early on this hike to avoid any potential summer afternoon thunderstorms.
The hike to the lake is about a 500 foot descent. And I think this is one of the prettiest sections of trail in all of Pagosa. You’ll pass through high alpine tundra with scattered boulders and bedrock that can create these gorgeous ponds that make you want to jump in. Everywhere you look, there is a view. This truly is a special place.
As I approached the lake, I got my first ever glimpse of a moose in the wild. I sat there for about 15 minutes watching this amazing creature have his lunch, foraging on some bushes.
As you get closer to the lake, you’re hiking on bedrock so be sure to follow the cairns that lead to the lake over the next quarter of a mile.
My favorite spot at the lake was by quartz creek where you can hear the soft sounds of flowing water as you look across the crystal clear lake over towards the Ridgeline. Absolutely beautiful. Just keep in mind that 500 descent to get to the lake means a 500 ascent on the way back to the car.
Overall, as I said, this is one of my favorite hikes here in Pagosa. There’s great opportunities for camping spots at the lake for those that want to spend a little extra time in nature. I can’t recommend this hike enough. Just make sure you’re prepared and have those weather forecasts in hand.
For more trail guides and other fun things to do in Pagosa Springs, you know where to find us! Thanks for watching and cheers!